For people who worship cinema, Adoor Gopalakrishnan is a name among their deities. That’s why when Kazhcha-Niv Indie Film Festival (KNIFF) brought Adoor Gopalakrishnan for the panel session, that happens on all the four days of the festival in the evening, there was a swell in the audience.
Adding to the spectacle was the versatile Uma Da Cunha, renowned film programmer, filmmaker and writer; and Cary Sawhney also known as Cary Raj. The world knows Sawhney as the director of the London Indian Festival and a bold filmmaker who explores unbeaten paths as evident as the films like Secret Heart (2016), Khaana (2012) and Looking for You (2010).
The session was moderated by the ever-cheerful film buff and film critic Sachin Chatte.
Da Cunha kickstarted the discussion with a declaration that she will address Adoor Gopalakrishnan as “Adoor” only unlike what others call him — “Adoor sir” or “Gopalakrishnan sir” — as she knew him right from the time, he had graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune.
Adoor Gopalakrishnan was asked about his childhood days and interest in the films and he took everyone down memory lane. He said his first love was always theatre and he was not interested in the films. He was a part of the theatre even as an eight-year-old boy. His love for cinema was something that happened quite slowly and developed gradually during his FTII days.
When asked why he did not continue acting, Adoor Gopalakrishnan smilingly said: “Once I started working behind the camera, I never felt like going in front of it.”
He narrated how he was first employed as an officer in the statistical department in which he could stay only for one year. Out of his interest in and love for the theatre he left the job for FTII where he joined the three-year course in screenplay writing and direction. He reminisced about the wonderful classes taken by veterans like Satish Bahadur and Ritwik Ghatak.
When asked if he had a dilemma as to what after FTII, Adoor Gopalakrishnan said, in his characteristic commanding way, that he did not and that he was fully aware of what he wanted to do next.
“There is a joke that people tell about me, I made my audience first and the films later,” he said and laughed. He admitted that it is partly true as before his first film Swayamvaram in 1972 he worked a lot to screen films, promote film appreciation and film writings and production of films through crowd funding and society formation.
When Sawhney curiously asked about his way with actors, he explained how he doesn’t give the entire script to the actors. He added that he did not like neither the actors nor the editors taking the freedom of interpreting his script. “My editor is a good technician, I don’t want him to be a great artist,” said Adoor Gopalakrishnan.
He concluded the session with his poignant remark: “I cannot retire because I have not worked enough.”